Eventually we get used to the thing that happens when we move on from a place we’ve really enjoyed. We always get this huge pang of ambivalence – we love to travel, to find new places and experience the freedom of the road and at the same time we feel a little sad leaving our happy place. Our eight day break in Sitges was great. We had such a good time, eating, drinking, walking, cycling, playing golf and enjoying spending lots of time with Chris. In fact almost all our favourite things in one package. Camping el Garrofer, aptly named “the home of the slow traveller”, has grown on us over the years. The staff are delightful, everyone is friendly and helpful and it has the most amazing hot showers where you get pounded by strong hot water to your heart’s content. If a motorhomer pays to spend the night on a campsite, this is high on their list of priorities. Trust me.
So we left a little reluctantly, heading north to the border with France. We struggled to make a decision about where to stay. Looking at the options we were certain we didn’t want to move to another campsite and many of the aires looked less than appealing. We didn’t want to leave Spain too soon, given that we had three weeks before our crossing to the UK but at the same time we wanted to find somewhere pleasant to stay.
Eventually we decided to return to Cabanes where the motorhome parking is halfway between a campsite and a simple aire. We chatted as we drove north about its pleasant environment, full services including great wifi, easy access to good dog walks and pleasant cycling. All was well until we arrived. To our astonishment there were two massive trucks parked up in the motorhome space, offloading huge pieces of building using a crane. Portable buildings were set up on site and the ground was dug up with tyre tracks. Clearly something big was happening there and it occurred to us that our few peaceful nights weren’t going to be peaceful at all. It is perfectly possible that in a couple of weeks there will be a great new toilet block or service area but right now it is less than appealing.
What to do? Out came the phone and we looked up the nearest motorhome parking, finding one in Peralada about 3 miles away. We were soon pulling into the attractive car park on the edge of town where six designated motorhome spaces are placed beside the excellent clean and free service point.
The only problem was that with the trailer we couldn’t get into the spaces. We looked around at our options, thinking that we would unhitch the trailer and put it in a car parking space when a lady appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and told us that we could park anywhere, pointing to a huge long spot in another corner. I’d like to say that we whisked into the spot straight away but I would be lying. In fact we did a number of manoeuvres, shuffles and false starts before deciding which way to go in, working out how to tuck in neatly and not be hemmed in by other vehicles. Sometimes I imagine that I’m getting really good at reversing the trailer. Other times I hang my head in embarrassment when every person within thirty yards stops what they’re doing to watch me get it wrong. I suppose this is payback for all the people watching we’ve done over the years. But eventually we did it! Shirley at the back waving, sometimes frantically, me wigwagging the wheel in order to try to get the thing to go where I wanted it to and saying my mantra out loud ‘turn the wheel the opposite way then wigwag.’ Okay I admit, wigwag will not be found in most dictionaries. It is my term for the necessary right and left motion you need to stop the trailer from going too far and jackknifing. Okay – enough detail, you can wake up now. We were on a large level spot, away from other traffic, the sun was shining and we were happy.
Straight away we put the dogs on the leads and headed into the town to have a look around. Peralada is a very pretty ancient town with an arched gateway into the oldest part and plenty to see and enjoy. We noted a couple of nice coffee shops and cafés. a lovely looking patisserie and we began to reconsider our decision to go easy on the eating out after more than a week in Sitges. We trotted back towards the van feeling utterly content. Little did we know ….
At precisely 3.30 a.m. I was woken by the sound of whimpering from Boo. Boo often registers his distress with one of two of his forms of communication … whimpers or growls. It’s easy to work out his thinking. He whimpers if he wants one of us to do something for him and growls when he wants us to stop doing something. This was a whimper and it was getting louder so I reluctantly got out of bed and put the dogs leads on – Poppy wasn’t going to miss a thing, even though she was half asleep and she leapt into action. Boo dragged me the length of the car park at speed towards some long grass and deposited an extraordinary amount of liquid poo. Oh no! We went back to bed and I thought, just before falling back to sleep, that this might just be a one off. The next time I woke up two hours later, Shirley was struggling into her clothes to repeat the process. Another nap before – yes you’ve got it – another emergency call from Boo’s bum. Poppy joined in all of these short outings, standing swaying on her feet and shivering at the side of the road trying to breathe through her mouth. No, I’m confused – that was me. Poppy just got up and went back to bed without a murmur every time.
The next morning we walked up to the pharmacy to ask for probiotics for dogs. Spanish pharmacies stock dog medication so we hoped for the best. The best they could offer was probiotics for children but we accepted it as a better option than nothing. Sadly it had no effect at all and 16€ went almost literally right down the pan. By now our joie de vivre had left us and we gave in to the temptation of fresh bread rolls and a cake from the patisserie. Why is it that eating wicked things makes us feel better when we’re a bit low? Wouldn’t it be great if all we wanted was a grated carrot? As we munched our way through a giant roll with scrambled egg followed by a lovely apricot and almond cake all served with our own fresh coffee we began to relax. Once again … little did we know.
We whiled away a few hours alternately trotting the dogs around all the long grass we could find that was a long way from human habitation and sitting reading and listening to music. After dinner we noticed something strange, the van was rocking and there was the eerie sound of howling from the trees surrounding us. An almighty wind had blown in from the Pyrenees and it was hitting us at speed. For 36 solid hours the wind whistled through the town with gusts, according to accuweather, of 65kph. For the first time in living memory I actually felt seasick whilst on land. Walking the dogs became an exercise in self and canine preservation as the gusts literally stopped us in our tracks and even pushed us backwards in the direction we had come from.
On one of these trots I noticed a sign beside the motorhome parking “48 hours maximum stay”. Oh dear. We were approaching the 48 hour limit and the wind made it dangerous to drive on. We had noticed that the local police regularly drove around the parking and we were worried that they would come and give us our marching orders so, when one drove around and then stopped near us, we decided to take the situation into our own hands. Using Google translate to write our dilemma in Spanish I was allocated the job of going out to speak to the young female police officer. She wound down her window and smiled at me, confirming when I asked that she did indeed speak English. I explained our dilemma and asked if we could stay another night, as driving over the border seemed risky in this weather. “Sure!” she said warmly, “Stay as long as you need to. You are very welcome here. Stay safe, it is dangerous out there.” She waved as she drove off and I returned to the van warmed by the friendliness and kindness we had received.
Later that day the wind finally calmed and we went out for a proper walk to look at the storks that have been reintroduced to the town by the owners of a large estate.
Huge trees are filled with massive stork’s nests and you can clearly see them nest building and listen to the sound of their beaks chattering as they communicate with one another. We were fascinated to discover that parakeets use the base of the stork’s nests to build their own spaces. On each tree there was a pair of storks flying to and fro with massive sticks whilst right underneath were several pairs of parakeets doing the same thing in miniature.
There are large information boards around that explain about the introduction of the storks and how local schools had been educated about them and helped with the ringing of the new inhabitants. If you visit here it is well worth a stroll around the walls of the huge estate next to the parking. The sight of these enormous birds living in harmony with the parakeets is fascinating.
On Sunday morning we awoke to brilliant sunshine and not a breath of wind. Looking at the weather forecast we had precisely one day to escape the windy Pyrenees and make our way onwards into France. We had been hanging back from making a decision about our route but the windy weather that was forecast to return in 24 hours made the decision for us. We headed towards Toulouse. More on that the next time.
Boo has something to say
My name is Boo and I belong to the second most intelligent of domestic canines. Despite taking second place in intelligence I can assure you that a miniature poodle is superior to the Border Collie in many other ways. We don’t shed hair, we’re small and light, we don’t eat much and we are very, very good at training other dogs and, perhaps most importantly, humans. I am proud to say that I excel at training my humans – they are very nearly domesticated, thanks to me.
I travel with my two humans and a my fellow canine, a small blonde scruffy, crossbreed female called Poppy. She is half poodle (which is of course a good thing) and half working cocker spaniel (the jury is out on that part).
I’ve heard the humans comparing our temperaments and I fail to understand their reasoning. Apparently she is biddable and eager to please – characteristics that are overrated in my opinion. She makes little attempt to train the humans. Barking only when she needs a wee or is very hungry. Sometimes she doesn’t even use her voice for that, choosing instead to flip her food bowl into the air and smiling in a cute way. Cute! This is not a word that should be in the same sentence as dog. Poppy does as she is asked almost straight away. This is not good practice. How are the humans ever going to learn who is in charge that way? I on the other hand make them wait. Much better not to give into their whims at first asking. Ok, I admit this has backfired on a couple of occasions, like the time I got left in the living room overnight at home because I refused to go to bed when asked. I had to sleep alone on the sofa instead of in my cosy bed. This all goes to show that you have to get your timing right.
I want to make it clear that I love my humans – I just know how to handle them and keep them in line, most of the time.
The human is a breed of two legged, large headed, sparsely haired primate. Their purpose in the world is to provide comfort, care and shelter to domesticated animals, including themselves. They believe themselves to be superior but you only have to observe the ridiculous lengths they go to to buy stuff they don’t need, working longer and harder at jobs they hate, wasting precious life time … watching this it is clear to us canines that their intelligence is limited.
My humans refer to me as their very own neurotic poodle. I don’t understand this word neurotic but sometimes they say it with an affectionate laugh whilst patting my head and sometimes they say it as they turn their backs on me… usually after I’ve growled at them or at Poppy. You need to understand that I only growl when I’m unhappy about something. Here are a few examples: someone touches one of my feet; one of them tries to brush me and doesn’t stop when I’ve had enough after about 30 seconds; Poppy sleeps on my seat in the motorhome; they ask me to get into position for take off when it’s time to move on; they put on my travelling harness; they try to put a warm woolly jacket on me when it’s going to be a cold night; Poppy starts to eat before I give her permission; someone accidentally touches me when I’m asleep and wakes me up; Poppy gets a reward for doing as she’s told; I don’t get a reward for not doing as I’m told; they trim my tail; they trim my feet … just a few examples there. Not a lot really when you consider my age.
I’m 70 in human years so I take it as a compliment when they refer to me as their grumpy poodle. I understand that word and I’m proud of it. Grumpy old men even used to be on the TV and everyone loved them. To know me is to love me …
Thanks for reading folks. Have a nice day!